Lent is a season of 40 days observed by some Christian faiths around the world in preparation for Easter. BYU exercise and wellness student Nico Montanez said Lent is a representation of the 40 days and 40 nights Christ spent in the wilderness fasting; those who observe Lent give up something for 40 days.
“I know someone who gave up swearing (for Lent), and if he did swear, he would add a dollar to a jar. And then at the end, whatever was in the jar would be donated to the church,” Montanez said. “I know people give up their favorite candy bar or drink, but usually it’s giving up a bad habit.”
BYU sociology major Olivia Sanchez said she observes Lent and said it is a time of increased prayer and fasting.
“You are supposed to give up something for Lent or make it a time that you are committed to pray more or be better with fasting,” Sanchez said. “It prepares you for when Christ is resurrected. That’s why you pray and fast a lot and try to have your sins resolved.”
Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent when many Christians, including Catholics, go to a traditional mass, according to Sanchez. A priest smears ashes from palm leaves on the attendees’ foreheads in the form of a cross, which represents human mortality.
“The ashes come from palm leaves that have been burned from Palm Sunday, and the priest puts the ashes on your forehead and says ‘Remember that you are dust, and unto dust you shall return,’” Sanchez said.
Other smaller traditions with specific symbolic meanings are observed during Lent. Each Friday during Lent, participants also give up meat as a reminder that Jesus died on a Friday and gave up His body. They refrain from eating meat, but fish is allowed.
Palm Sunday is the Sunday before Easter.
“They give palm leaves at church that symbolize the people that were there during Christ’s arrival [into Jerusalem],” Sanchez said. “After Palm Sunday, the palms are burned are used for the next years’ ashes on Ash Wednesday.”
Good Friday is the Friday before Easter and also the day Christ was crucified. It is a day of fasting, prayer and self-reflection. It is a time for repentance to prepare for Christ’s resurrection on Easter Sunday, the last day of Lent.
“Easter has more of a renewal spirit because it’s the end of the 40 days, and so if you were doing Lent properly, you know that if you were able to give up something you feel closer to our Father,” Montanez said.
Easter Sunday includes a longer service in the Catholic religion with different readings from the Bible about the resurrection. Afterwards, worshippers rejoice and celebrate not only Christ’s resurrection but their improved relationship with Him, according to Sanchez.
“Usually by Easter you feel pure and ready for the resurrection. It’s a really good time to become closer to God or get back into a routine of prayer. It helps you through the rest of the year to get you on the right track,” Sanchez said. “I can always count on Lent to help me back on track with prayer and have a stronger connection with God.”
Montanez said he looks forward to Lent each year as a time to refresh and restart. He said he knows if he has a bad habit he can give it to God and find new ways to draw closer to Him.
“I think the biggest way people benefit from Lent is they see their relationship increase with our Heavenly Father. When you give up something for Lent you recognize that it’s harder than you thought and then you realize that Christ did it for 40 days,” Montanez said. “I have realized that my relationship with Christ gets stronger because of either things I gave up, or didn’t give up, benefit my life.”
For more information regarding Lent and local Easter services, visit the website of St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church in Orem.